Saturday, August 12, 2017

Picnic like an Egyptian...Tourist circa 1930

The one project I resolved to complete this year is an Egyptian Revival picnic set up for Gatsby Summer Afternoon

Held each year on the historic Dunsmuir House grounds, this event is an annual extravaganza of Art Deco style (see 2016 photo gallery). Some attendees picnic with their classic cars, others rent shaded tables by the dance floor. Collectors set up lovely tables and blankets with their heirloom china, vintage linens, traveling bar cases and all sorts of other beautifully made things (including 1920-30s recipes). It's excessively elegant and a delightful escape into the past. Some creative souls have made wonderful themed picnics, like the team behind The Jade Pagoda (see below) and  "Casa D'Or." These large-scale installations require a lot of prep, schlepping, set-up and pack-down, but allow picnic-goers to step into their own time-capsule and share it with others.

"The Jade Pagoda" from 2015's GSA was spectacular.  
Credit: SFGate/Tim Hussin
I have some experience doing this sort of thing, after creating a mobile version of medieval writer Christine de Pizan's 15th c. study. But time and energy is in shorter supply these days now that adored junior is on the scene. Soooo... my efforts to get the infrastructure for an Egyptomania theme didn't coalesce in time for last year's picnic. I made a hand-blocked hat and dress from vintage Egyptian fabric and picked up a number of things that we were able to use, but didn't get the pop-up sunshade disguised. That process involves the making of draperies and other items that ideally transform the kind of sunshade you see at farmers markets and kids' soccer games into something resembling a Deco Dining Pavilion.

Having an extra year to plan means I've refined the picnic concept – I'm thinking "Temple of Hathor," thanks to this figurine I picked up at a funky gift and metaphysical store in Nevada City. Apparently this beauty was actually used for "adoration" by group of people up there who still find spiritual inspiration from the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Good juju, right?



What would an Egyptian temple pavilion be doing at a Deco garden party? Egyptian-themed parties, dress and music were very fashionable after the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1923. It's plausible the hosts of my picnic are recently returned from their vacation on the Nile, ready to tell stories and show off display their souvenirs. With that conceit in mind I've collected some vintage guidebooks and printed a bunch of vintage and more recent pictures in sepia and b/w, with plans to paste them into a vintage scrapbook I found at our local Salvation Army (my go-to spot for finding vintage paraphernalia).

But that little finishing touch needs to wait until I get the infrastructure done.

So far I've repurposed a bunch of tent-grade canvas from storage to make a roof facia for the sunshade. Home Depot had appropriate shades of half-price paint on the "oops" rack, which conveniently matched the fabric I found for the curtains at Fabrix a couple years ago. I already had gold craft paint on hand, and the main issue is just working with such a long piece of fabric (40 feet) in our very small SF apartment. I'm painting about four feet at a time, usually on the alternate nights when husband-unit does bedtime routine for junior.



Project Notes: what's done, and what's left:

• Curtains: Measured, cut, hemmed; to conserve the fabric I made tabs of plain copper colored cotton and am planning to close the loops with safety pins for more flexibility of where they hang from struts/understructure of the pop-up sunshade. The curtains will cover the white steel poles. Still need to make and apply a few loops to guide the tie-backs, which I found on the clearance rack at JoAnns.



• Roof facia: I've put grommets into the key spots on the original roof to slip through ties to affix the facia strip to the steel struts/understructure. Canvas for the facia has been cut, assembled, hemmed; cord applied to the back for hanging; paint guides marked; color applied; gold detailing in process with lots of masking tape.



• Ceiling: Ties applied to corners and midsections of the edges; holes and grommets applied at four spots in the middle where ceiling needs to be supported by the strut hubs. White ribbon ties will hang from the struts hubs and pull through the grommets and washers I've painted gold. Decorative papyrus flower elements applied with stencil and gold paint, which serves dual purpose of strengthening area around the grommets.

Stencil from Etsy - used it for a dress earlier this year. Those wrinkles will come out btw!


Greenery/Decor: I was thinking potted palms, but then these King Tut papyrus plants turned up for $10 on Craigs List....hello!

Should've seen these before I literally sawed off all the dead roots and whatnot.

• Hathor's Crown: I'm currently stumped as to how to turn these into a topper for the sunshade – maybe use a block of floral foam as a base? But there's a pole at the top of the sunshade that I can screw it down to once I figure it out.



• Back wall: I have a great pice of 1930s fabric that will make a perfect decorative wall on the sunny side of the shade. It's been hemmed and ties have been attached. Loops for hanging have been added to the the two vintage quilted souvenir tapestries from Egypt that will go on either side of the back wall.




Scrapbook: in the queue

I've found a bunch of great vintage travel pics online. 


Menu: Making a better version of ye olde pyramid cake - relying on our fellow picnic partners for help with the rest, thank Hathor.

Pyramid cake, 1.0


• Finish Dress: Oh right – this is kind of important. It's cut out, using some fun vintage Egyptian fabric. Just need to assemble. Maybe should think about doing that now....



• Hat: Hope I have enough steam left to do this (ha, ha, get it, steam? Milliners joke.)


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